Wednesday August 21, 2013 | 06:17 AM

By now, with Labor Day nigh upon us, we might all be getting our fill of food from the grill.  Ribs, steaks, fish, chicken--the list goes on--and the sundry barbecue sauces and other devises of backyard cookery might be getting a bit tiresome, too. 

But there’s one dish that is different from all the rest—reason enough to still tend to grill cooking.  It involves an unusual method for cooking chicken that I’ve been making for years ever since I came across it in an interesting barbecue collection of recipes called Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book, the recipes and secrets from a legendary barbecue joint., Big Bob Gibson

It was compiled by pitmaster Chris Lilly and gleaned from his years at Big Bob’s in Decatur, Alabama, where authentic, down-home barbecue is virtually a birthright. 

While Portland is experiencing its own barbecue-joint boom (Buck’s Naked,  the newly opened Elmsmere in South Portland,  and Salvage BBQ opening any day now), I have my doubts that any of these  will capture the the authentic tastes and flavors of real southern barbecue because geography makes a difference.  Still, they might get close enough, and that’s the best we can do.

I have a big collection of barbecue recipes from southern pitmasters, and I’ve learned this important essential: The food has to cook long and slow over wood and coal to achieve purity and authenticity of flavor.

The chicken is put into the loaf pan, covered with apple sauce and coated with the spice rub; after barbecuing the pan won't be of much use other than to use it for this chicken--or you can wrap the inside with foil to save the pan for other uses

This chicken dish comes from Big Bob Gibson’s collection, and it’s killer good.  What makes it so unique is that it’s slow barbecued  and placed in a standard loaf pan where it’s coated with rich applesauce and a spice rub of paprika, sugar, cumin, coriander, garlic salt, celery salt and salt and pepper.  It’s then cooked directly on a covered grill. 

In about 1 1/2 hours, the chicken is almost ready if you kept the temperature steady at 300 to 325 degrees; close the vents on the grill partially to maintain the heat

A little extra smoking time on the covered grill will produced a beautifully burnished, crispy-skinned chicken that's still moist within

Served with a tomato tart, fried corn and loaf-pan chicken, it's a great summer meal

Or try it with corn pudding and stewed-baked tomato casserole with basil

Confining the chicken in the loaf pan allows it to roast in these delicious juices, making it moist with the smoky aromas from the wood (hickory, maple or apple) pervasive throughout.

Serve it with fried corn (sautéed with shallots and green pepper and simmered in  heavy cream until the consistency of creamed corn) a baked tomato casserole and  you’ve got a great end of summer menu.

Loaf-pan chicken
Adapted from Chris Lilly's  Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book

Servings: 4

1 cup good quality applesauce (such as locally made by Ricker Hill Orchards, available at Whole Foods)

4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds

Spice rub
1 heaping tablespoon turbinado sugar
2 ½ teaspoons paprika
1 ½ tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoons celery salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground sea salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander

Build a  fire with natural wood and charcoal.  Meanwhile soak several large chunks of fruit wood or hickory in warm water for 30 minutes.  Put on top of coals when ready to cook. 

Prepare the chicken by placing it in a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan.  No need to truss the chicken.  It will fit snugly.  Cover with the applesauce, coating the entire chicken with most of it over the breast meat.

Combine the spice rub and cover the breast meat with it.  Place on the grill, away from the heat, cover the barbecue grill and cook at about 300 to 350 degrees for about 1 ½ hours or until a meat thermometer registers 165 on the breast meat.  Baste the chicken occasionally with pan juices. 

When done, remove from loaf pan and allow to rest 5 minutes before carving. Pour pan juices over carved chicken.



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John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.

In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.

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